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A Literal Black Eye On Our Sport

Tim KesselMarch 13, 2017

It took decades for motorcycling to overcome the negative perception of the lifestyle that was prevalent in the 1950s. So much of that perception was unfairly created in entertainment and the media. Movies that portrayed motorcyclists as roving gangs of thugs and staged magazine photographs of drunken, antisocial bikers put a lasting, negative patina on the activity that we love and share.

Now, decades later, we are seeing a new wave of damage being done to the public view of our sport. However, this time the media that is spreading the perception is of the social variety and, in the words of Commodore Perry, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” This is not fake news. This is a black eye being inflicted on our sport by a very small, but very visible moto-subculture.

You have likely seen the news reports of bands of thugs on unlicensed dirt bikes, ATVs and sport bikes terrorizing the streets of New York and, most recently, the freeways of California. The gangs do wheelies, burn outs and engage in highly dangerous stunts on busy streets and freeways. Traffic is often brought to a complete halt during the “performances.” When an unfortunate motorist draws the ire of the motorized gang, the retribution is quick and violent.

Clearly, when this anarchist behavior is filmed and shown in all of its sensationalistic glory on the evening news, our sport suffers indelible damage. The images of helmets used to break auto glass, motorists being dragged out of their vehicles and bikes being used as weapons are more than disturbing. They are a sad chronicle on the state of our society and the motorcycle is becoming a symbol of the degradation.

Sadly, law enforcement can do little to catch the perpetrators of the mayhem and violence. Helmeted pirates on unlicensed bikes are hard, if not impossible, to identify and track down. Catching the fleeing and fragmented gang is like trying to catch cockroaches before they disappear under floorboards.

Unfortunately, we responsible motorcyclists can seemingly do nothing to curb the behavior of the small but very visible dark side of our sport. We are helpless to stop the lawlessness. However, we can continue to counteract the negative perception the thugs are creating with their despicable actions with positive actions of our own. The scientific maxim “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” may be the best thing we can do. Safety, courtesy and respect for other motorists will not make the evening news, but it can help to change perceptions one driver at a time.


  1. As a rider of almost 45 years, I agree – I think. But, the trouble seems to be that, to a lot of people, black eyes are a badge of honor. Let’s face it, it’s more than tempting to use Ba-ba-ba-bad as a marketing tool. From “Jack Daniel’s Indian Chieftain” to almost every brand calling select bikes “street-fighters” it ain’t just the 1%ers, squids or the wannabes that make motorcycles problematic. From where I sit, the indicator of a wonky biker doesn’t just reside with “the small but very visible dark side of our sport” – they’re fairly ubiquitous: loud pipes, dressing like a pirate, shunning ATGATT, using the public roads like private tracks, and farting at stop signs. Okay, the last one we can all agree with, but I’m sure you see my point. Safety, courtesy and respect for other motorists will go a long way, but there are other variables in play that make motorcycles appear threatening, even if they’re not.

    • I’m in agreement with everything you say, however there is a difference between full ATGATT and squid wear. Jeans aren’t really ATGATT, nor are non armored leather jackets (also usually very thin leather) or leather work boots without bike specific ankle and crush protection, however all these “not really ATGATT” items present an image to the public that show much more common sense than flip-flops, shorts and a “wife beater” shirt or a vest.
      Loud pipes, especially when “flaunted” with unnecessary heavy throttle and trying to impress oneself at stop signs does nothing to improve the image of bikers any more than the groups of ATV and dirt bike riders raising heck on the streets.

  2. You nailed the problem we are faced with. I have had some people on motorcycles who cut right into our group of riders.They laughed and thought it was a joke.Lucky no one was hurt. I don’t get what makes some people tick.

  3. This is just like the civil protest marches for and against issues like Roe vs. Wade that are infiltrated by a few masked anarchist’s who turn violent smashing windows and setting fires, etc., the few degrading the many.

  4. I disagree completely:

    We CAN do something:

    If you are a rider, and you know that one of these illegal rides is going to take place, or you see one, CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT!

    If you see dirt bikes (not dual-sports) and ATVs or other unlicensed motorcycles on the street, CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT IT!

  5. I agree that jerks who ride are still jerks. They harm the reputation of everyone.

    BTW, I think the Perry quote is a bit out of place. He said “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.” By ours, he meant they had captured the ships. The better quote is from the comic strip Pogo, which paraphrased Perry and said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  6. Darwinian theory usually catches up with these asshats. I agree with TPB. If you see or know about these types of riders, turn them in.

  7. The incidents I’ve seen in New York and also on the YouTube vids with the gangs of dirt bikes & quads are exclusively perpetrated by youthful blacks who go out of their way to flaunt authority and disrespect police. This is typical behavior for these ghetto nightcrawlers and unfortunately we motorcyclists as a whole are damaged. I personally believe that the police need to simply mow them down with their squad cars when they menace the public and refuse to stop or elude arrest. It is also common practice for ghetto punks to intentionally slam their stolen cars head-on into the police car before running away from the scene.

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